Monday, May 31, 2010

18. "Blessed Unrest" by Paul Hawken

Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest. New York: Viking, 2007. Print.
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love

Paul Hawken, an environmentalist and writer, toured the country for years giving lectures. Over the years, he collected numerous business cards from people involved in various activist groups—typically social, economic, and environmental justice organizations. He became curious about the sheer number of cards he had stored up over the years and began to count them. This lead to an even greater curiosity. How many justice organizations are there? Hawken has counted over two million activist groups around the world working towards various forms of social, economic and environmental justice.

Hawken calls activism in the 21st century, “the largest movement in the world” (5). He writes that what is happening with activism in the world today can be considered the largest and most important social movement in recorded history. He notes that “The Movement” started during the abolition. The abolition illustrates the first time in recorded history that people have come together to work for the good of people they have never met, and will never meet; they are simply doing it because it is the right thing to do (Hawken 5). He writes:

“The [. . .] individuals who may never meet and come to know one another are part of a coalescence comprising hundreds of thousands of organizations. It claims no special power and arises in small, discrete ways, like blades of grass after a rain. The movement grows and spreads in every city and country and involves virtually every tribe, culture, language, and religion. [. . .]
The movement can’t be divide because it is so atomized—a collection of small pieces, loosely joined” (11).

Hawken traces the environmental movement back to its roots and he argues that it is important not to separate human beings from nature. He writes that we are nature and therefore, social justice movements are also environmental movements and vice versa.

He points out the importance of preserving indigenous culture so that we might learn from them—not in an overly romanticized way but in a practical way. He goes on to write about concentrations of wealth and issues with trade and globalization.

Toward the end of the book he writes about the earth being its own living organism. He then compares The Movement to our own bodies’ immune systems. He writes that The Movement acts as an immune system for the earth.

In all, I really liked this book. My biggest point of criticism lies in a slight lack of cohesion. Certain points that were made didn’t automatically appear to support the larger argument. At times, I really had to work to understand how certain examples and illustrations were proving the point and supporting the argument. The connections were not made automatically clear; I had to infer them.

This worked fine for me as I have already had some experience working in and reading about the kinds of campaigns and information that Hawken presents, but I do think for someone who might not have this same experience, the connections may be impossible to make. The writing style itself is very clear, but I wanted more explicit connections between the support and the overall argument.

3.5 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: NONE; I don't own it.


Anonymous said...

"The writing style itself is very clear, but I wanted..."

This almost always precedes an unreasonable and unfair expectation from a reader who feels the need to find something wrong with a piece. It is very grad-schoolish and is something you may well look back on in 10 or 15 years as a clear and embarrassing sign of your shortcomings as a critical reader.

d'Artagnan said...

I WAS in grad school when I wrote this review, so it makes sense that it would sound grad-schoolish. I also HOPE that in 10-15 years I can look back at my writing and recognize growth. I wouldn't find it anything to be embarrassed about as life is about growth, change, learning, etc. I am what I am and your criticism does nothing but reinforce your own need to feel superior. Maybe you will look back at your comment 10-15 years from now and realize how intolerant and pretentious it was.